Crested Cranes face Senegal in Wafcon return

Team Leaders. Nassuna will spearhead Uganda’s attacking line whereas Aturo (R) will command the defence from her goal posts. Background is Lillian Mutuuzo on one of her mazy runs on the wing.PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE
 

What you need to know:

  • The reward for Nassuna and co. after breaking the jinx is an opening game against a rising Senegal side that has also been away for the past one decade.
  • Nassuna was two years old at the time. She is now the country’s top scorer with 14 national team goals and 106 national league goals.

It all boils down to this! Uganda return to the Women Africa Cup of Nations this evening after a 22 year absence.
It has been so long that one of the key players - at that 2000 edition in South Africa - Annet Nakimbugwe now has her daughter Hasifah Nassuna fully grown and as one of the leaders of the current team.
Nassuna was two years old at the time. She is now the country’s top scorer with 14 national team goals and 106 national league goals.

The reward for Nassuna and co. after breaking the jinx is an opening game against a rising Senegal side that has also been away for the past one decade. The Group A sides meet at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat with high expectations from their nations.
Uganda’s Crested Cranes have raised their stock during the preparation phase by winning the Cecafa Women Championship at home and beating Zambia 5-0 in a build-up game held three days to last night’s tournament opener between their group-mates Morocco and Burkina Faso.

Coach George Lutalo has tried to shield his players from the pressure by declaring they are in Morocco “to play good football” and that they “have a lot to improve on.”
But it is highly doubtable that many nationals listened. The team whetted the fans appetite with their free-flowing football at Fufa Technical Centre, Njeru and many will be eager to see if the same can be executed at the highest level.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
Lutalo has also all indications of a man that will stick to what would easily pass for a lightweight midfield if they were not on this winning run.  Joan Nabirye is tasked with holding forte as Nassuna and Shamirah Nalugya pull the strings in the middle of the pack.
This allows the coach to fit in three of his nine forwards and it is likely the foreign-based trio of Fauzia Najjemba, Viola Nambi and Ritah Kivumbi will get the node ahead of the Cecafa winning trio of Margaret Kunihira, Sandra Nabweteme and Fazila Ikwaput.

Work cutout 
Senegal are no pushovers but they not giants in the women’s game either. They have struggled in the regional qualifiers to these finals over the years but they made the grade this time by beating 2018 semifinalists Mali. The Lionesses of Teranga are coached by local man Mame Moussa Cisse, who returned for a second time in 2019 after an unsuccessful stint in 2016.
He has built his squad around Marseille forward Mame Diop, Bourges striker Nguenar Ndiaye and playmaker Awa Diakhate plus captain Safietou Sagna.
With their physicality and experience gained from playing in France, Uganda will have a lot of work to do defensively.

Both teams look evenly poised for battle but such matches also depend on who sticks to their game plan and does not get carried away by the weight of the occasion.   

UGANDA’S PROBABLE XI
Ruth Aturo (captain); Asia Nakibuuka, Sumaya Komuntale, Aisha Nantongo, Yudaya Nakayenze; Joan Nabirye, Shamirah Nalugya, Hasifah Nassuna; Viola Nambi, Ritah Kivumbi, Fauzia Najjemba 

WOMEN AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS - TODAY FIXTURES - GROUP A
Senegal               vs.   Uganda, 6pm
GROUP B
Cameroon      vs.   Zambia, 8pm
Tunisia              vs.   Togo, 11pm
 

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